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School Place Allocated - But Can We Move Home?

(16 Posts)
user1494614373 Fri 12-May-17 20:26:07

Our child has recently been allocated a place at a popular primary school. We have been renting for a short time at the current address but are now ready to buy a property - (it's a short distance away but outside the catchment). Our application was entirely legitimate.

The Hertfordshire admissions website states:
"Examples of cases that will be investigated and applications withdrawn: Renting a property close to a popular school and moving home prior to school starting in September 2017"

On the other hand the Hertfordshire admissions code states:
"If you move house once you have been allocated a primary school place, you can choose to keep the place offered..."

I feel like we should have the freedom to move on with our lives and move into our first home and settle in before our child starts school. But the statement on the website is causing a lot of stress - should we cancel our house purchase? Or are we within our rights to move home before September without this threat hanging over our head?

BarbarianMum Fri 12-May-17 20:33:10

The website seems very clear to me. You need to stay put until September. No use going on about your right to freedom. Your playing the system but you can at least play it by the rules.

caroldecker Fri 12-May-17 21:11:15

It sounds like you sold your old house, rented in catchment to get the place and now want to buy out of catchment. Assuming you previously lived in the area and have not moved jobs etc, I would not risk a challenge and would stay put.
If your old house was hundreds of miles away and you moved for a job change and rented initially and are now buying, I think you could risk moving and justify your actions as not linked to getting a place.

smellyboot Fri 12-May-17 22:00:14

I'm sorry but to me it also is playing the system. You rented for a short period that just happened to coincide with the schools application window. Oh and now you want to move further away out of catchment - cheaper area by any chance? If you want to keep your school place you need to at least stay put for a respectable time. And yes I know a child who had their place withdrawn for doing that.

ginswinger Fri 12-May-17 22:06:39

We were renting at the time of getting my DD's place. In January, out landlord asked us for his property back and we moved out in May. We didn't go far but out of catchment by the time by DD started in the September. There's not been so much as a murmur.

admission Fri 12-May-17 22:10:51

You are very much in grey areas here.
Firstly if you consider the admission code guidance it is clear that you are allocated a place based on the home you and your child were living in on the last day you could apply on, that is January 15th. If you like, that is what is the core of the Hertfordshire admission code saying you can stay in the allocated school place.
However you were in rental on January 15th rather than owning your own house.There is no problem with renting but when you then say it was short term and you are now buying a house which is outside of the school catchment it immediately starts to raise questions in peoples minds as to the motives of the sequence of events.
Too many people have short term rented property to gain a place at a popular school and then moved shortly after getting an offer of a place. It is no exaggeration to say that near to me there is one such school and a whole set of terraced houses opposite the school are "red-flagged" by the LA as they have been used so many times to try and gain entry. Anybody applying for a school place from those terraced houses can expect to be checked out very, very carefully by the LA as to whether they have a second house or move very soon after the allocation of places.
The statement on the Hertfordshire admission website is a reaction to this abuse of the system. I am not aware of any court case that has confirmed that the LA has the absolute right to remove the place offered if somebody simply moves before September 1st rather than fragrantly abuses the system but certainly I know of LAs where this has been applied and the place withdrawn. It may well be that these were far more obvious cases of abuse of the system but there clearly must be some level of risk to you if you inform the school and the LA of the change of address before September 1st.
If you can prove that the short term rental was perfectly legitimate, that you were at the address on Jan 15th plus are clearly not going to be moving in till at least June, then one would hope and expect that the LA would accept your reasoning but there must be a small risk.
Sorry that does not give you an answer really but you need to consider the level of risk. The nearer you get to September 1st before you move in, the lower the level of risk that somebody at the LA will investigate.

prh47bridge Sat 13-May-17 00:32:17

Agree with Admission.

The first quote from Hertfordshire is a little extreme. It should say that this is an example of a case that will be investigated and places may be withdrawn depending on the outcome of the investigation.

Taking that into account, the two statements you highlight are not inconsistent. Under the Admissions Code the offer of a school place cannot be withdrawn simply because you move. However, as you have been renting for a short time a move at this stage is bound to ring alarm bells, raising suspicion that you only rented to get a place at this school. If the council think that is what you have done they can take your place away and you would then have to appeal to try and win it back. It would then depend on whether you could convince an appeal panel that your actions were entirely innocent.

You have the right to move but in your situation there is a very clear risk in doing so.

ExplodedCloud Sat 13-May-17 00:41:27

People do move into areas for school admission purposes. And having secured a place, move out. If you have a good explanation then ring admissions and be upfront.

user1494614373 Sat 13-May-17 18:39:23

Thanks Admission, prh47bridge and others for your comments.

I didn't see anywhere on the school application or on the government school admissions code state that when you apply as a 'renter' then you must not move house prior to September but homeowners can move wherever and whenever they wish without fear of their place being withdrawn. No doubt there would be no legal foundation for such conditions but these are exactly the conditions that are being applied to families who rent: at least in the terms of 'warning' on the Hertfordshire Admissions website. I don’t agree that the website and the code are in harmony. The code makes it seem that it is fine to move home. I expect the code has been checked by the lawyers (since it needs to comply with the Human Rights Act) whereas the website comment less so.

I understand why the LA has these measures but ‘grey areas’ should not apply on such an important issue - the law should be clear and enforced. There are many families who genuinely rent at time of application and then their circumstances change - they should not be rounded up as ’suspects’ and have to prove their innocence in a poorly designed admissions system.

tiggytape Sat 13-May-17 18:49:42

I understand why the LA has these measures but ‘grey areas’ should not apply on such an important issue - the law should be clear and enforced. There are many families who genuinely rent at time of application and then their circumstances change - they should not be rounded up as ’suspects’ and have to prove their innocence in a poorly designed admissions system.

Councils have a duty to ensure school places are correctly and fairly allocated.
If they allowed short term renters to get a place at a highly desirable school then every parent that could afford it (and wanted a highly desirable school) would rent from January 14th - mid April, take their place and run. This would obviously be an awful system - they might as well just cut out the middle man and sell the best school places to those who could afford them.

So they do tend to ask those that rent short term, get a desirable school place and quickly move again to prove that their case was genuine eg your last landlord forced you to move at that time or you're moving from Australia to London and needed to rent in the area before you could find somewhere to buy..

The onus is on parents in suspicious circumstances to prove they aren't cheating when it looks very much like they only rented to play the system. The council can decide whether they accept the explanation or not. If they withdraw your place and you feel they have not applied the rules fairly to you, your option is to appeal, explain the entire time line and reasoning to an independent panel and hope they agree.

cantkeepawayforever Mon 15-May-17 19:45:33

The thing is, it depends whether your case 'looks a bit dodgy but in fact stands up to scrutiny' or 'looks dodgy because, frankly, you were playing the system'...

We were living in short-term rented property, obviously too small for our family's long term needs, when DD applied for and was offered a place at a popular primary school.

However, the paperwork stacked up - we had moved from a different county, DH had had a job move to the new town, our house had been on the market for months but had not sold, DS was attending the school also.

In a different scenario - e.g. you moved from a longer term rental just outside the catchment area, to a short term rental close to the school, and are now buying outside, with no other needs for those moves (ie you gave notice to your original landlord, the house you moved into short term was of no benefit other than being in catchment, there were no associated job moves etc) then in the interests of fair allocation of school places, it merits investigation.

cantkeepawayforever Mon 15-May-17 20:00:48

I suppose what I am saying is that if you KNOW that your actions stand up to scrutiny and you can document that, then you can go ahead and move with no worries.....

MadamePomfrey Mon 15-May-17 20:10:18

They aren't saying you can't move they aren't allowed to do that. They are saying if you do they may look into and if the decide it looks like you abused the system your place could be withdrawn. They haven't said they will only do this for people renting from what I see, they could look in to people who have brought then moved as well (I know in some London boroughs the do). Therefore it is not wrong or unfair if they investigate they could do it do anyone. If everything stands up then you have both to worry about.

PatriciaHolm Mon 15-May-17 20:22:53

The admissions code quite clearly states that -

"2.12 An admission authority must not withdraw an offer unless it has been offered in error, a parent has not responded within a reasonable period of time, or it is established that the offer was obtained through a fraudulent or intentionally misleading application.... Where an offer is withdrawn on the basis of misleading information, the application must be considered afresh, and a right of appeal offered if an offer is refused."

So Admissions Authorities are entitled to establish if applicants are attempting to obtain a place through misleading them as to the child's permanent address. If you rent a home near a in-demand school but have another home not too far away, the authority may well decide you are attempting to mislead them. If as a renter you own no other home, you should be fine.

BrieAndChilli Mon 15-May-17 20:30:26

What were the circumstances of your short term rental???
Where were you living before? If you move back to where you were before then whether it will be taken as you were playing the system

It doesn't just target renters - if you own a house and then buy another closer to the school, if you still own the other house they will normally take that house as your real address.

It's very rare though for people to only buy a house for 6 months before then selling again and moving, it's too expensive

It's much much more common for people to keep there big house in the cheaper area then rent in catchment for 6 months before moving back home again.

admission Mon 15-May-17 21:09:30

user1494614373 I totally accept what you say that some admission authorities do try to make people who rent properties all out to be "on the fiddle" when it is totally unjustified.
The reason why there are grey areas is that the admission code gets changed from time to time and it then takes a long period to get some of these questionable bits to a point where there are legal cases and a legal precedent is set. Unfortunately politicians cannot help but fiddle and change things even though they do not need changing and some we end up with an altered admission code, which almost invariably contains some wording that causes more questions then answers.

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